Thing afficionados still have a week left to consider an abstract for the conference ‘Things in culture, culture in things’, to be held at the University of Tartu, Estonia, 20-22 October, 2011 — three days about things in culture, cultures in things “and lest we forget, all that stuff in between”.
The call for papers claims that “since the groundbreaking publication of Arjun Appudurai, ed. The Social Life of Things (1986) to the launch of the Journal of Material Culture a decade later, “the material world in its cross-cultural, multi-temporal and interdisciplinary study could never quite be the same again”: objects, artefacts and matter, “even sometimes the immaterial”, have been theorised and contextualised in lots of case studies. And in contrast to the usual jargon of ‘thing agency’, this call for papers takes a more sober position — things are “endowed with agency”, which is an entirely different ‘thing’:
A well known adage in this field of enquiry is that things make people as much people make things. The relationships we develop and share with a tangible arena of artworks, buildings, infra-structures, monuments, relics and everyday objects varies from the remote to the intimate, from the fleeting to the durable, from immediate to mediated, from the passive to the passionate, from the philosophised to the commonsensical. Within the practices of creative processes and their use or non-use of the physical world, things gain meaning and status. They become endowed with agency, symbolism and power. Our journeys through the world of things generate a multitude of emotions: pleasure, attachment, belonging, angst, envy, exclusion, loathing and fear. They also feed into the propagation of on-going myths, narratives and discourses which oscillate between the robust and the ever shifting.
And here are the organisers suggestions for topics, i.e. everything about things is apparently of potential interest:
(i) Dynamics – Changing of meaning, practices, functions and modality in time and space
– displaying / collecting (museums, galleries and institutions);
– archaeological practice / how objects are made meaningful through their use;
– naming and renaming; assembling and dismantling;
– modality, mediation, remediation; (sources of) knowledge of things;
– innovation and technologies;
– biographies of things / life stories;
– recycling, reuse, waste, entropy, heritage.
(ii) Identity – Ways we relate to and use things
– identification / objectification;
– memory (memorials);
– cultural autocommunication;
– symbolic usage of things – heritage, monuments, rituals;
– consumption, consumerism / commodification;
– naming, narrating and silencing (or censoring) things;
– embodiment and things.
(iii) Methodologies – How we study things
– objects and subjects of research;
– material aspects of research / materiality of research;
– disciplinary and interdisciplinary methodologies;
– historiographical approaches;
– what things are – genres and types of things in different disciplines;
– historical epistemologies.